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St. John River - Kayak Trip / Canoe Trip

Report Type: Extended Trip Report
Trip Dates: May 2005
Nearest City: Fort Kent, ME, USA
Difficulty: Moderate
Submitted by: Adam

Description:

After meeting in Allagash Village, the guide shuttled me and a group of two down to Baker Lake. This was approximately 4 hours drive on washed out logging roads. I had decided to travel solo down this river in a folding kayak, a Folbot Kodiak. I put in on Baker Lake at approximately 1 pm May 23rd; it was drizzling and continued to drizzle through the following morning. Quick water was encountered right away after crossing the Baker Lake Bridge. I paddled for the next 5-6 hours, I don't have the names of the campsites handy but the first log cabin encountered, Turner Bogan was already occupied by a group of 4 and the site just before was taken by a group of 2 whom I caught the shuttle with, so I stayed on the river and kept going. I ended up setting up camp under a bridge.

I put in again about 8am the next morning, still drizzle. The sun finally broke out a little just before lunch time so I stopped at the log cabin at ledge rapids to rest. Most of the rapids are class 1 with the exception of Big Black Rapids and Big Rapids at the end of the trip. Ledge rapids proved to be uneventful. I paddle to Nine mile campsite and stayed there for the night. This site had an old cable bridge "flying fox" across the St. John. This is wear I could dry my booties, gloves and other soaked clothes for the rest of the trip.

On the 25th I hit the river about 10 am and came across very shallow water at the nine mile gauging station. I had to walk my kayak through some of these areas. Only about 50 ft or so! I paddled on mostly flatwater up to priestly bridge. Here I saw a group of canoeists gathering as well as two float planes landing. A few miles past the bridge was Priestly rapids, one section of this was borderline class 2. It had turned into a nice day, mid 60's and sunny. So I decided to camp at Simmons Farm. I was walking around for a while and found another campsite a couple hundred yards down river which had an under cover eating area and was more wooded. Two canoes then pulled up (the group of 4 who had taken the first log cabin), I talked to them briefly. They ended up going to the undercover area downriver.

The following day I put in about 10am again, as I paddled out the group of 4 in there canoes were also pulling out. We stayed within site of each other for the rest of the day. I was a little concerned with Big Black Rapids, as I was nearing the turn for the rapids the group of 4 had pulled over to the right hand side to scout the rapids, I did too. After about 30 min of scouting, the best approach was found to be the right half of the river all the way down. This would most likely change with different water levels though. While scouting a canoe went down, they stayed to the right and looked like a piece of cake.

This section was about 1 mile long and rated solid class 2. Don't be fooled though. In early June 2005, Big Black rapids took the life of man. His canoe was swamped and he was not wearing a PFD. Just past Big Black Rapids was the confluence of the St. John and the Big Black River, with a couple campsites and a put in. I paddled down long rapids, not really long at all turned out to be a lot of fast water with rips. I camped out just past Schoolhouse Rapids, again another washed out rapid.

My final Day, the 26th May proved to be the most exciting. I wanted to take out just past the Dickey Bridge about 11 am, so I started paddling about 9 am. I paddled by Poplar Island Rapids, quick water really, there was much erosion in this area and many pines ready to sweep the river. As I turned the bend for BIG rapids, I was trying to find the portage site to attempt a portage if the rapids looked too ferocious. I never found the take out, the whole area was lined with what looked like vacation homes so I just kept going, at first the rapids were class 1 the river then dropped down and down and down, the rapids got progressively worse, some standing waves were 4-5 feet, I had a couple close calls, the river then veered to the right this was the worst section of all. Just after the bend the river relaxed for about 50 yards or so, then another class 2 section which I wasn't expecting at all. Be careful at Big Rapids. When I was through the rapids I had about 3inches of water in my kayak. Compare this too big black rapids, I didn't see a single splash.

Unless you have white water experience, I wouldn't run Big Rapids. I ran it alone which was stupid and in a folding kayak which was stupid.

I paddled another 20 mins past the Dickey Bridge and took out. What an adventure!!

Outfitting:

The boat was a Kodiak Folbot Expedition. A 15 foot kayak which will break down into 2 duffle bags.

Fees:

The outfitter shuttled me to Baker Lake from Allagash Village for a $230 fee. Beyond that, I can't remember the fees paid but they were higher than I expected. They were about $55 for 4 days on the river.


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